Edinburgh University 13 Dumfries Saints 18
On a day when more games were postponed in the national League than played, Saints travelled to Edinburgh keen to keep up their winning ways. They kicked off on a wet heavy pitch with a constant drizzle of rain and conditions that soon turned the ball into the proverbial bar of soap.
The Saints started well and took the game to their hosts, territorially they dominated the first quarter but were unable to turn pressure into points. At times Saints tried to play rugby that was too complicated or from too deep when conditions suggested a hoof downfield and pressure on the receiver would gain them more ground. Youngster Alan Birdsall looked confident at standoff but handling errors throughout the side were putting the Saints under pressure and keeping the Uni side in the game.
Saints paid the price when after 25 minutes the University made a rare visit to their 22. In a tough decision the ref penalised Saints for handling on the ground and the Uni gratefully kicked to take a 3-0 lead. Whilst the home side looked technically competent and well organised they had never threatened to score and only looked likely to kick penalties and live off Saints errors. They didn’t have to wait long before getting a gift chance as within a minute Saints inexplicably tried to run the ball from their own 22, added to which some Barbarian style passes were attempted, inevitably it went wrong and the ball popped up in the air in front of the University standoff who needed no second invitation to race in for an easy score. Having dominated the game the Saints were cruelly 10 points down.
Coach McGauchie made changes bringing on Russell Weir at scrum half and moving experienced Alex Bryden into standoff. The combination of the changes and the hurt of conceding a soft try fired up the Saints. Once more their big runners in the pack Ben Stanley, Ali Mather and Jamie Little started making yards and Weir kicked superbly to drive the opposition back. The pressure told and from a break that almost made the line the Uni conceded a penalty, Birdsall kicked and half time came with Saints 10-3 down.
Saints started the second half as well as they had started the first but this time with a little more effect. Russell Weir chipped the defence and Rory Steele followed up fearlessly winning the ball in the air, he fed Ben Stanley who put Finlay Miller in for the try. The home side came back at Saints after this set back but in these conditions it was all about getting into the right areas of the pitch and then applying pressure. It took a while for Saints to get themselves back into the zone but when they did some tremendous picking and driving by the forwards allowed Russell Weir to chip to the corner where the home defence was all at sea and Doc Satala pounced for his first Saints try. Alan Birdsall kicked a fine conversion from wide out for a 15-10 lead.
The Edinburgh side were not finished however and came back at the Saints earning a penalty which was well kicked to close the game up and set up a grandstand finish. Having worked so hard to get themselves in front the Saints weren’t going to let this one go. Man of the Match Rory Steele chased his own clearing kick downfield and managed to charge down the attempted clearance, in the scramble to avoid letting Saints win quick ball the Uni conceded the penalty. Birdsall kicked to restore the five point lead. Time ran out with Saints on the attack and the Uni hanging on for a deserved losing bonus.
This was a difficult day for rugby and at times Saints showed their lack of experience in trying to overcomplicate in the wrong areas of the pitch. Once they played the conditions they got the rewards their hard work deserved. In a tight league an away win is always a good result and in better conditions Saints might have achieved a bigger win, once again though they showed determination and spirit in grinding out a win.
Team; G McCall, R Henderson, K Geddes, B Stanley, A Mather, D Henderson, D Crichton, J Little, F Miller, A Birdsall, J Farquhar, A Bryden, K Henderson, D Satala, R Steele. Subs all used A Sloan, J Currie, R Weir.